k12

You are currently browsing articles tagged k12.

While visiting the BuddyPress site for fresh news, I encountered a blog post entitled BuddyPress in K12 Education. It appears that BuddyPress is being piloted by the Dearborn, Michigan school district. It’s always great to hear about Open Source adoptions by public K12 ! I could see deploying components of BuddyPress in our school’s existing WPMu installation.

I was disappointed, however, to see that two of the key plugins for making this possible are for pay: Site-wide Privacy Settings and Content Monitoring. It seems to me that privacy settings for blogs should be a basic functionality for Social Networking platforms. I hope that BuddyPress will integrate some form of access/privacy settings that will make it appropriate for K12 in the near term!

Tags: , , ,

I’ve been examining both Elgg and BuddyPress for use as a social networking platform in the K12 setting. One of things necessary for our school (and probably many others) is that unmoderated content be private.

About three months ago, BuddyPress developer, Andy Peatling, responded on the BuddyPress forum that the initial release of the software would be would be for open networks and that after the release the plan is to introduce privacy settings.

About a month ago,  user josswinn began testing dsader’s More Privacy Options plugin for WPMU, and posted his experiences in both the BP and WPMU forums. By putting More Privacy Options in the mu-plugins folder, blogs can be set to one of five levels of privacy. If an admin sets the primary blog to  “visible only to registered members,” the BuddyPress portion of the installation is locked down nicely.

bpprivacy2

This also effectively blocks registration which is desirable for our purposes. Apparently another plugin called Members Only functions similarly, but without the numerous privacy options.

While the pages are blocked, RSS feeds are another issue. In spite hacking dsader’s More Privacy plugin as recommended on these forum posts, I found myself able to access  RSS feeds to material that should have been blocked. Josswin reports the same with Member’s Only as well. I tried using Clifton H. Griffin III’s Disable RSS, but that did not work either.

The More Privacy Options plugin seems to block RSS feeds fine on my other WPMU installation. I am puzzled by the difference. The only solution I see at this point is to delete or rename key RSS files within WPMU. It will be interesting to see if a resolution appears. Otherwise, it might be best to wait until there are privacy settings within BuddyPress itself.

Tags: , ,

I have been experimenting with the open source social bookmarking application Social Web CMS for a little over a week. SWCMS is a Pligg fork. Last year, I had worked with Pligg trying to modify it for K12 use.

In order to make a social bookmarking application suitable for many in the k12 environment, content and comments need to be moderated. With Pligg, I controlled the content by hacking all “Upcoming News” links out of the template; hence, newly submitted stories could not be viewed unless published by an admin. Unfortunately, I never found a way to moderate comments, so I again hacked the template to eliminate the ability to comment altogether. In addition, it is desirable to control users by eliminating public registration. Again, all registration links had to be deleted along with the register.php file.

When I started exploring SWCMS, I wanted to find similar controls. Any of the solutions mentioned for Pligg would work here; however SWCMS has a few more options.

Developer Nick Ramsay created the Submission Approval mod that holds a new user’s first submission in moderation until reviewed and approved by an admin. I made a small change to one of the files—submission_approval_main.php around line 133:

if($num_submitted > 1 ) {

Changed to:

if($num_submitted > 1000000 ) {

Effectively changing all posts to moderated. I made similar changes to his comment approval plugin. As with Pligg, registration can be hacked out of the template and register.php can be removed.

The ability to enable and moderate comments is a big plus. Moderating submissions work equally well whether I hack out upcoming news. One drawback to the Submission Approval Mod method is that once a submission is approved, it also needs to be moved from queue to publish. I tried setting admin–>config–>voting to 1 vote to publish, and admin–>config–> submit to automatically vote for a submitted story, but that did not eliminate the additional step. I will continue to look for a way to streamline the process.

SWCMS joins the ranks of useful software that can be used in the K12 setting. I plan to experiment with social bookmarking with my students in the near future. If anyone is interested, I will be glad to provide my modifications.

Tags: , , ,

Elgg‘s development continues and appears to be progressing toward its next release—version 1.5. The svn revisions “odometer” has begun moving again this week after a brief break following the release of version 1.2.

Elgg’s roadmap states that Curverrider plans to make major relases every six months with Version 1.5 due in February. Several target enhancements due with this release have already been completed:

  • An Administrative interface for customizing profile fields
  • Metastring garbage collection
  • Log Rotation
  • Additional themes

Scalability enhancements are partially completed. Slated further improvements include:

  • Views and plugin location caching
  • A mobile device view
  • An OpenDD client for syndication, imports, and exports (will this mean 0.9–>1.x migration?)
  • Improved front page layout and submenu system
  • The often requested group deletion
  • Drillable site-wide activity stream

Elgg progress is not limited to the work of core developers. We are starting to see institutional support for Elgg development and customization. Kevin Jardine developed are critical event calendar plugin funded by the Royal Institute of British Architects. A large K12 school district in the US is considering an Elgg roll out with monetary support for the necesssary customization by core developers. Other institutions are beginning to pour manpower into Elgg modifications.

These developments bode well for  Elgg’s future. I plan on continuing to support Elgg through a number of means in the future. I look forward to its implementation in K12 education.

Tags: , ,

Social bookmarking tools allow users to store and share bookmarks on the Internet so that they are accessible from any computer connected to the net. There are a number of popular free commercial social bookmarking sites including del.icio.us, Furl, Digg, Stumbleupon, and others. Of course, my emphasis has been upon open source alternatives to these sites so that students are not exposed to inappropriate content, advertising, and analysis of browsing habits. Of the tools that I have covered extensively on this site, Pligg, Elgg, and Posh have social bookmarking capabilities.

Potential Uses for Social Bookmarking in Education

Students and educators can benefit from the use of social bookmarking. Teachers could create a bookmark category for an individual class. Rather than passing out paper with links, students would be referred to the bookmarks residing on the bookmarking site for easy access by clicking links. Taking this concept yet further, a teacher could allow students to submit bookmarks for sites that they find useful and pertinent to the class.

Collaborative groups could share an account, or create a unique tag so that all members could have access to what the others have bookmarked.

Individuals conducting research could simply use social bookmarking to keep track of useful sites. This will allow the individual to access his bookmarks regardless of location or what computer he is using.

Bookmarking with Pligg

Pligg is a free and open source application designed to function similarly to the commercial social bookmarking service DIgg. Unlike many other options, social bookmarking is central to Pligg’s functionality. It is fully functional social bookmarking software with means of submitting bookmarks with descriptions and tags. It also provides ratings in which, depending on the template, users can rate a bookmark Digg-style with a thumbs up or thumbs down, or with a star rating system.

Here’s a step by step look at how bookmarks are submitted in Pligg. Navigating to the site, once users log in they are given the option of submitting a new “story.”

Once  the user clicks the tab, they will see a page similar to the one below.

From this point, the user needs to pste the url into the field. Note the guidelines to submitting quality bookmarks.You may alter these messages and indeed add more by going into the the admin interface, selecting Modigy Language and change these fields:

An educator who is grading students’ bookmarks might alter this to provide clear criteria by which they will be evaluated. The next step prompts the user to describe, tag, and categorize the bookmark.

Once this is completed, it enters the administrator’s queue to be approved. Once it appears and depending upon how Pligg is configured, the bookmark can be rated. It also can be commented upon, however admins may want to remove that option as the comments cannot be moderated.

Bookmarking with Elgg

Unlike Pligg, Elgg is not specifically a bookmarking application. Rather it is a social networking platform that can include bookmarking if the extension is installed and enabled. In Elgg, there is a different set of options. You can view your own bookmark collection, those of friends and site bookmarks.

Unlike Pligg, bookmark urls cannot be copied and pasted into a field, rather they are handled via a “bookmarklet.” The bookmarklet icon is dragged to the browser’s link bar.

Once you click the bookmarklet, it grabs the Page title and url and sends you to the Elgg site to complete the bookmarking process.

The bookmark can be described, tagged, and sent to any friends’ bookmark inbox. You can also set the access to public, private, or to logged in users.

Once the bookmark is submitted, other users can comment upon the bookmark.

Bookmarking in Posh

While Posh has bookmarks, their functionality is quite limited.

Click on add a bookmark, and you are give a field for the title, the url, and tags.

Evaluating Student Bookmarks

Teachers may require bookmarks as part of a student’s participation in class. One simple way of doing this would require students to submit a certain number of sites. While this is a reasonable requirement, a good evaluation would consider the quality of the bookmark and the resource it references.The bookmark could be rated in part by the quality of the description according to clear criteria (which can be explicitely stated in the software with Pligg). These might include:

  • Evaluation of site’s authority
  • Good summary of the site’s content
  • Valid and rich use of tags
  • Appropriate categorization
  • Ratings and comments from peers

Conclusion

Social Bookmarking has clear value in education. While self hosted solutions lack the potential for world-wide collaboration that the big commercial sites have, they certainly allow for collaboration with a group, class, or school. The open source options will protect privacy and avoid inappropriate content, and they are more likely to pass muster with afdministration and community.

Of these tools, Pligg stands out as the best because of it’s rich feature set devoted to social bookmarking. Elgg, on the other hand has privacy settings and sharing functions that Pligg lacks and comes as part of a broader social networking platform. Both are suitable for use in the K12 setting. Posh, while useful, is rather limited; thus, a convenience, yet a less valuable social bookmarking tool.

Tags: , , , , , ,

« Older entries